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EUMM on May 18 incident

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, May 27
European Union Monitoring Mission issued a statement on May 24 about last week’s incident at the administrative border between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia. “Mission so far has found no information to substantiate the South Ossetian version that their border patrol came under fire and acted in self-defence,” EUMM’s statement reads.

On May 18 the Georgian Foreign Ministry reported that 5 Georgian citizens, residents of the village of Chalvani, Sackhhere region came under fire at the administrative boundary line with Tskhinvali region. Two Georgian citizens, including a minor, were wounded by the “occupational regime” militaries, Georgian authorities reported.

However, the de facto South Ossetian officials released a statement, giving a different version of an incident of May 18. Based on the information provided by the de facto South Ossetian security services, information agency RES reported that the South Ossetian “border department” officers found a group of Georgian citizens who had crossed the “border” illegally at the village of Lopan, Znauri region.

“During detention, unidentified persons opened fire at the border officers in order to free the detainees. After the backfire the unidentified men dispersed,” the de facto South Ossetian law enforcers said, adding that they have detained four “violators,” including an underage person. “At present they are being questioned. The underage person will be handed to the Georgian law enforcers in the near future,” the de facto authorities said. The detainees were later released after an hoc ad IPRM meeting at the village of Dvani at the administrative border with Tskhinvali region.

The EUMM said that following the “serious incident” of May 18, the EU Monitoring Mission has been gathering information from eyewitnesses, the local population, the local police and medical personnel. “On the basis of the information available at this time, there appear to be inconsistencies and contradictions on the key points, however it is clear that two Georgian citizens were seriously wounded, one with the life threatening injuries,” the Statement reads “As to the shooting itself, the mission has so far found no information to substantiate the South Ossetian version that their border patrol came under fire and acted in self-defence,” it continues.

EUMM has said that the Mission will continue to gather information about the incident at the Chotlo Gorge, “but whatever the circumstances, the incident raises important issues about the safety and security of civilians in areas close to the administrative boundary line. This will be raised at the next meeting of the IPRM on June 17.”

In a separate statement released on May 24, the EUMM said the Mission is “aware that the Georgian law enforcement authorities have increased their presence” on the administrative boundary line close to Tshinvali region “as part of enhanced security measures.” The EUMM expressed concerns “about the implications for freedom of movement for the local population.”

“The EUMM has increased its visible presence in these areas and urges restraint from all sides to maintain security and stability for the local population,” the statement reads.